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January 27, 2003
Veness refuses to rule out future raids on mosques
London, The Muslim News:
Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police David Veness says that he understands the reaction by the Muslim community to last week’s raid on Finsbury Park Mosque, but refuses to rule out the possibility of future attacks being staged.
“I hope very much that this would be exception for religious values, but public safety is out priority. One can’t exclude what is going to happen in future,” Veness said in an interview with The Muslim News.
He said there were enormous task that needed to be considered for the unprecedented raid. “We meticulously examined what was necessary, proportionate and balancing these with public safety has got the priority,” he insisted. “I can understand the reaction but everything was considered before,” the Assistant Commissioner said. He also clarified that the police did not enter the prayer area of the mosque at the time of raid “but later went in the course of investigation.”
Local Muslim leaders in the Finsbury Park area and national leaders, held an emergency meeting last Friday to decide an action plan following the outrage and concern expressed over the raid carried out by over 150 police officers in dozens of vehicles and with the support of helicopters. Those present accused the Government of “wilfully misusing their power to turn the spotlight on the Muslim community once again for their own perverse political agenda.” One spoke of the hypocrisy, saying that the police “never raided one church” in 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
Despite the assurance of Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes regarding consultations about future incidents following the forceful removal of asylum seekers at a Midlands mosque last year, it was revealed at the meeting that the consultation had been by way of a phone call 15 minutes before the raid. It was also suggested that the police could have easily detained any suspects when they were outside the mosque instead of “choosing to embark on a charade played out for the media.” Some expressed concern about the link with the Government’s agenda on Iraq and using the police as a political tool in which the raid on Finsbury Park Mosque was firmly put in the spotlight.
All the Muslim leaders at the meeting said that the attack was a “dangerous precedent.” Not only was the North London Muslim community under siege but the operation was seen as opening the floodgates for even more Islamophobic backlashes. A vociferous condemnation was made of the “witch hunt” that has been going to further the Government’s support for a war on Iraq. The aim, coinciding with numerous other incidents and scare stories, was seen to increase the fears of the general public at the same time as silencing Muslim dissension.
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